Bill proposes assistance for firefighters battling cancer, heart disease

Published 9:00 pm Friday, February 12, 2021

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Hayfield Sen. Gene Dornink joined four other legislators in authoring a bill to provide one-time payments to firefighters with cancer or heart disease.

Gene Dornink

The bill, Senate File 686, would place the distribution of the funds under the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program.

It would also fund counseling for those firefighters and mandate health and occupational training for firefighters.

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“The physical, mental and emotional toll their career takes on them needs to be prioritized to ensure the highest level of safety for our hometown heroes,” Dornink said in a release.

The commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety would be tasked with awarding the Minnesota Firefighter Initiative with a grant to fund the program. No dollar amount was included in the bill.

The bill sets parameters for distribution of the grant funds to the MFI, a statewide advocacy organization.

The program would cover costs of up to five counseling sessions per year in a customized program “to address emotional trauma experienced by firefighters.” Additional counseling was also included in the bill.

The bill requires the training sessions to be facilitated by firefighters and should last at least two hours. The focus should be “on cancer, heart disease and emotional trauma as causes of illness and death for firefighters,” outline best practices to limit those occupational risks, and promote emotional wellness.

Up to $30,000 would be available to firefighters in the “critical illness monetary support program.” Applicants would need to provide proof of a current diagnosis of cancer or heart disease or one within the past year, along with meeting other criteria set by MFI. The bill requires MFI to also gauge “the severity of the firefighter’s diagnosis.”

Dornink’s bill has been assigned to the Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee; it has not been scheduled for a hearing.